A RETIRED bus driver has been convicted of claiming benefits of over £5,000 that he was not entitled to.
William Jennings (69) of Castlehill Road, Brookeborough appeared before Enniskillen Magistrates Court on Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to declare a change in circumstances.
The court heard that Jennings had claimed Pension Credit and Housing Benefit totalling £5,610.86 while failing to declare another income.
It was outlined to the court that the defendant had failed to promptly notify the Social Security Agency that he was in receipt of pension credit between 15th December 2013 and 16th July 2015.
Defence solicitor Niall Bogue said it was not the case that his client had been in employment while obtaining benefits. Mr Bogue explained that Jennings had ceased to work as a bus driver with the Western Education and Library Board in September 2013 and had started a benefit claim the following month.
Two months later in December he received a back payment of holiday pay but Mr Bogue said Jennings now accepted that he should have declared this.
The solicitor added that his client had expected to receive a private pension in January 2014 and had not made the SSA aware of these payments.
“He appreciates that the duty fell on him to make the relevant parties aware but he assumed that semi-government bodies would have liaised with each other. He had never been on benefits before and wasn’t accustomed to the system,” Mr Bogue added.
Mr Bogue said his client had never been before the courts before and he was certain that he wouldn’t be so again, adding that the case was a source of “huge embarrassment”.
A PPS representative told the court that Mr Jennings has repaid any outstanding money wrongfully obtained to the Department for Communities and there is no monies outstanding.
A pre-sentence report prepared for the case had indicated a low likelihood of re-offending and a letter was handed in to court from the defendant’s GP.
In light of this Mr Bogue said that his client was not suitable for community service and felt that a conditional discharge would be the most suitable option. District Judge Bonita Boyd said she would take into account the defendant’s early plea, clear record and medical circumstances.
“He appears to have expressed genuine remorse,” she added. Jennings was given a Condition Discharge for two years.
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